Hiking Adventures in the Austrian Alps

Hello again!

I’m finally back with some adventures to share with you. It seems like moving to Stirling has only made us even more infatuated with all things related to forests, nature and mountain culture. Between August and September, our family travelled to the Austrian and Polish mountains in Europe, and we also visited the very beautiful city Krakow, in Poland.

In Austria we stayed in Zillertal in Tirol, in a lovely traditional ski chalet in the heart of the Alps. This part of our holiday was a family reunion for my husband’s side, and we stayed together with many of his cousins and their families. We spent most of our time hiking through the most magnificent forests, eating hearty Austrian alpine cuisine and drinking schnapps to recover those sore legs!

Our chalet was in little town called Ginzling, and we were a short drive away from the main town in Zillertal, called Mayrhofen. It was the end of summer and the scenery was absolutely breathtaking. The steep mountains lined with pine trees rose to the sky from left to right, and bright green meadows stretched across the valley for the ‘Alpen cows’ to graze on. I loved the lovely distant chime of the cow bells that all the cattle wore (I really miss hearing them, now that we are back home).

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The homes that are scattered throughout the valley are my favourite type of architecture style. These folk style mountain chalets are combination of timber and white rendering, with beautiful wooden balconies intricately carved out by hand in pretty ornamental patterns. Fortunately we were not too late in the summer season to see these balconies over flowing with the most beautiful geranium displays, in every colour combination you could think of! For me, a self-confessed germanium lover, this was truly paradise! I spent so much time captivated by these gorgeous balcony flowers. We don’t often see such floral displays in Australian gardens (except mine soon! hehe).

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We enjoyed a memorable hiking trip to the Schlegeis Basin to see the most brilliant turquoise coloured lake, surrounded by the steep rocky mountains and a permanent glistening glacier. Glacial water from within the mountain forms a waterfall that flows down into the luminous lake. Mark and I drank the glacial water pouring down the rocks, it was the most pure and crisp water we have ever tasted. We were also so impressed of our children’s effort in doing this hike with us, we spent all day exploring the path and hiking trails around the lake on such a beautiful and sunny day.

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We stumbled across a 200 year old wooden house where the musically talented Strasser children once lived. They became well known for travelling around the world singing Stille Nacht/Silent Night that has now become a famous Christmas hymn. This house is now known as the Silent Night House and has been restored into a museum to showcase the really old handmade tools and way of life over 200 years in Zillertal.

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A week after we left Austria the annual Almabtrieb festival was held where they bless and parade the cattle through town, before they are herded down to lower lying farms and barns before the winter snow arrives. The cattle are decorated with flowers and embroidered head-dresses with holy catholic figures and bells. Locals really adore and respect their cattle in Zillertal, as they provide the farmer’s their livelihoods and in turn the care is so evident in the happy and healthy looking cattle that we saw wandering freely everywhere.

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Another memorable day was when took three separate cable cars up to the Hintertux Glacier that had a peak elevation of 3250m. The view was spectacular above the tree line, with the enormous rugged mountain range overlooking the green valley below. It was so beautiful being at the top of Austria but I certainly experienced real vertigo on the viewing platform. It was very safe, but as a Mamma it was so difficult watching my children go to the edge and look through the railings into the steep mountain range. I could not help imagining the bolts breaking, and once my son noticed his poor mum in fear, he found it entertaining to keep going to the edge with his sister, much to the amusement of our family and bystanders!

It was lovely to experience glacial snow in summer and we had fun riding these tubes around and some snow play. At the bottom on the valley it was 31°c but at the top it was about 8°c. It is the only place in Europe where you can ski all year round and we were lucky to see saw the Italian ski team training that day.

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My favourite hiking adventure was a trek up to a little hut in a high mountain meadow called Max Hütte. I went on a ‘girls only’ trek with Mark’s cousins and his cousin’s wives, and it was so much fun hiking up with the girls; singing, laughing and enjoying the dark green forest and leafy passages on the way up. The path up was very rocky and it was both a mental and physical task to get to the top as each step was a calculated decision, particularly on the way down. Once we reached Max Hütte we were rewarded for our efforts with great coffee, delicious Austrian cakes and a beautiful view of the snow capped mountain and the cascading river flowing down into the valley. I loved the blueberry cake I ordered that was made with a blueberry yoghurt mousse that tasted so delicious.

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We had such an unforgettable week here in the Austrian Alps and we particularly enjoyed hiking so much that we want to travel on more hiking holidays in the future. In Poland we also went on many hikes in the Tatra Mountains that I will blog about soon. I really recommend travelling to Zillertal in Austria as it was one of my favourite overseas destinations to date, and the locals are so friendly and hospitable. There is so much to do, and a great holiday for families and nature enthusiasts. Stay tuned for the next instalment of our holiday, our visit to Krakow in Poland.

Have a lovely day,

Jacqueline

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